I am probably as sick of it as you are when it comes to doping, but given that you’ve been writing about nothing but for the last few weeks, I thought I might ask one more question on the subject.
What has me wondering, though, is after all of this noise, do you think the sport is any cleaner? I mean it was pretty open back in 1998 when the Festina scandal hit, but is it just hidden now? I’m betting there was a lot of money spent on the effort. Was it worth it?
I really am sick of the subject, Steve. Indeed, I was reluctant to even answer this one, but I’ve been doing a bit of thinking about the same questions, both tied to the costs and benefits of an international effort, so I thought I’d throw this out as a last comment after writing about the Armstrong, Ullrich and Contador cases. Hopefully, this will be it for a while.
Is the sport of cycling any cleaner now than it was in 1998? You or others might accuse me of suffering from a chronic case of Pollyannaism, but I have to believe it is.
Of course, I have to admit that I was one of those who also said that the 1998 Festina scandal would do a lot to clean up the sport from that point forward. It was a question that the four passengers in our press car at the 1999 Tour — John Wilcockson, Rupert Guinness, David Walsh and I — debated for three solid weeks that year. If history is the judge, then my guess is that Mr. Walsh won that round.
At best, the changes have at least taken a lot more time than I would have every thought. What has changed is that the creation of the World Anti-Doping Agency has accomplished much of what it originally set out to do: namely, to provide a coordinated testing effort, equalization of penalties and an investment of resources into research, testing and enforcement. I think they’ve pulled that off, but the price tag has been pretty high.
Cleaner or just a narrowed opportunity to cheat?
When it comes to the question of whether cycling is cleaner now than it was 14 years ago, I have to maintain that it is significantly better. No, I do not believe that there has been some sort of moral epiphany in the sporting world in general or in cycling in particular. There have always been and will continue to be those whose egos, bank accounts or both push them toward trying to find an edge over the competition.
To see how far we’ve come, let’s look back to 1998 and before. First, though, let’s make a couple of observations about doping and cycling. One, because of its physical demands, cycling is the sporting world’s prime candidate for doping. Two, doping in sport really “came of age” with the development of drugs and methods designed to enhance the body’s ability to transport vital oxygen to muscle tissue. In other words, EPO and blood doping. Before that, amphetamines, steroids and other drugs were fairly crude and marginally effective ways to enhance performance. With an amped hematocrit level, though, you could make a real impact on performance, especially in a sport like cycling, where endurance and recovery over the course of a three-week grand tour count for a lot.
Now, it wasn’t until late 1996 that the UCI took even the most moderate steps to address the wide-spread use of EPO and blood manipulation methods, when it imposed a 50-percent limit on hematocrit levels. Before that, riders were said to be raising their levels to 60 and beyond. The 1996 limit basically provided everyone with a license to cheat within “reasonable” levels. It was another four years before the urine test for isoforms of recombinant erythropoietin was approved for use. Again, sophisticated users came up with a host of ways to beat the test.
To its credit, it was the UCI which really set a higher standard when it led the way to the development of the Biological Passport (see “The Explainer: The biological passport revisited”) The bottom line for me is that this sequence of developments has continued to shrink the benefits a cheater could derive. Back in the mid-1990s, a doped-to-the-gills rider could see a 10- to 15-percent performance benefit from taking EPO. These days, with even the most subtle manipulation triggering alarm bells, the benefits are considerably less. Weigh that against the potentially career-ending costs of being caught and the incentive to cheat is diminishing.
Keep in mind that the Court of Arbitration for Sport didn’t find an element of intent—or even negligence—on Contador’s part in the recent clenbuterol case. The guy was nabbed for 50-trillionths of a gram of clenbuterol per milliliter of urine. That is hardly the stuff of major performance-enhancement. The Court even dismissed some of the theories that many of us had at least considered, namely that his contamination was the result of a transfusion of blood stored from a time when he was using larger amounts of the drug. Without debating the merits of WADA’s strict liability approach to even the smallest levels of PEDs in an athlete’s system, no one can argue that Contador’s offense is the moral equivalent of his team director’s Tour win in 1996, when Bjarne Riis purportedly earned the nickname “Mr. 60 percent” for purely hematological reasons.
Another indicator of the sport’s gradual move away from enhanced performances is the gradual decline in those very performances. Case in point, the times of riders covering those famous 21 hairpin turns on Alpe d’Huez. The record – Marco Pantani’s 37:35 in 1997 – may stand for some time to come. Last year, the winner of stage 19 at the Tour, Pierre Rolland, took 41:47 to cover the same distance. Indeed, when he won the stage in 2006, Fränk Schleck became the first Alpe d’Huez winner since 1994 to cover the climb in more than 40 minutes.
Proof that doping is gone? No. But the trend is such that we may be seeing an improvement. Indeed, we may have crossed a critical psychological tipping point in recent years in that riders no longer feel like they have to dope just to compete. Yeah, yeah, I know, I do sound Pollyannaish, but I am—despite my often grumpy and cynical demeanor—actually something of an optimist.
At what cost?
This improvement—if there is one—has come with a significant price tag attached to it. The 2011 budget for the World Anti-Doping Agency alone was (drum roll, please) a whopping $28,396,856. Twenty-eight million bucks. That doesn’t include the respective budgets of the anti-doping agencies in individual countries, nor does it include the anti-doping budgets of individual governing bodies, like the UCI.
WADA’s budget has grown from around $18 million in 2002, when the bulk of its funding came from the Olympic movement and the governing bodies that make up the International Olympic Committee. These days, the load is shared about equally between IOC members and the governments that have signed on to the 2005 UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport.
Before the 2002 creation of WADA (the concept was approved at the 1999 World Conference on Doping in Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland), testing and anti-doping enforcement was made up of a patchwork of rules, testing and enforcement methods that differed from sport-to-sport and from country-to-country.
The biggest benefit of the coordinated effort and increased funding is that it’s probably getting to be just as profitable for a smart biochemist to devote his efforts to developing tests in an open and legal laboratory setting than it is to do the opposite in secret.
Again, call me optimistic, but I honestly think we’re making progress … and, yeah, despite the enormous cost involved, I think it’s money well spent.
Now, can we please get back to bike racing? Or maybe a discussion of a lawsuit or two?
Don’t hesitate to drop me a line if you have a comment, an observation, a complaint or—better yet—a question to be answered in next week’s column. You can write me directly at Charles@Pelkey.com.
Have a good week,
The Explainer is now a weekly feature on Red Kite Prayer. If you have a question related to the sport of cycling, doping or the legal issues faced by cyclists of all stripes, feel free to send it directly to The Explainer at Charles@Pelkey.com. PLEASE NOTE: Understand that reading the information contained here does not mean you have established an attorney-client relationship with attorney Charles Pelkey. Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained therein without first seeking the advice of qualified legal counsel licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.
Follow me on Twitter: @Charles_Pelkey
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
A friend posted on Twitter the other day, “Why do I have such a hard time caring about the early-season desert races?” and I replied, “Because those are training rides the UCI has sold ads for.” Which is pretty cynical, though essentially true.
Everyone loves to throw their arms up crossing the finish line, but only the guy in first place doesn’t look like an idiot doing it. Andre Greipel won the sprint this morning at the Tour of Oman ahead of a hard-charging Peter Sagan. Marcel Kittel, the new fast German, took yesterday’s dash, and Sagan won the uphill finish the day before on the Arabian peninsula.
They are racing in earnest, even if relatively few people are watching. As much as searching for form, some riders are trying to make statements about their worth, and this is the time of year when not everyone is racing to win, when wins are available to those who really need them. But what are they worth?
In the present day, the early season is made of races like the Tour Down Under, Tour of Qatar, Volta ao Algarve, Tour de San Luis and Tour of Oman, and here are the names of some riders who have won at those races already this season: Tom Boonen (Tour de San Luis), Simon Gerrans (Tour Down Under), Edvald Boasson-Hagen (Volta ao Algarve), Alejandro Valverde (Tour Down Under). I think it’s safe to say that each of those riders has something to prove right now.
This week’s Group Ride asks the question: Which of these results is most significant? Who needed to throw that victory salute the most? Are there any results here that will bear on the big time races, later in the year?
Follow me on Twitter: @thebicyclerobot
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
Bear with me here. I’ve got some things to say about this book and at some point I’ll render a verdict, but I’m not quite sure how we’ll get there.
Let’s begin with the obvious: comedy is hard. We’re not talking hard like conjugating verbs hard. We’re talking double cork 1080 hard. Nevermind how the latter involves off-axis spins that render most of us food-proof for the rest of the week, the point here is that comedy has a way of taking the smart right out of brilliant as quickly as opening the plug in a car’s oil pan. Glug glug.
There’s a famous story of the actor/writer/director Albert Brooks carrying on at a dinner party and so entertaining the guests that people nearly vomited up dinner due to their incessant laughter. Everyone was in tears. Embarrassed by the way he had derailed the evening, he excused himself from the table and left.
Albert Brooks was so embarrassed by his gift of comedy that he left a party where absolutely no one—including the women whose makeup was streaked down their faces—wanted him to leave.
Brooks has such a command of funny there are people who would teach the entire county of Los Angeles how to properly use an apostrophe just to be that funny for a weekend. I know this to be true. I’m one of them.
Elden “Fatty” Nelson has a similar gift for comedy. Funny comes to him the way money comes to Donald Trump. And while not all of his funny is victimless (the folks at Assos seem still to be a little sensitive about his open letter to them), most of his barbs catch no one so much as himself. Yes, self-deprecating humor. Does it get better?
Well, in fact, it does. Bill Cosby is my favorite example of a comic who can take a circumstance—say walking home from a scary movie when you’re 10—and then show you the humor in it without embarrassing you. Think of any of his routines about childhood or driving. We were all there. We all have the same foibles, the same weaknesses.
Thank God Bill Cosby wasn’t a cyclist. I’d have spent the last 25 years in tears laughing at myself. Nevermind. I’ve spent the last six years laughing at myself thanks to Fatty. One of my favorite recurring themes in his work is the way he (like me) thinks he must be the only person on the planet suffering from some failing of character. Of course, he isn’t and not only is he not the only person waging said private battle, I’m busy thinking I’m the only one as well.
Sting once noted his favorite example of irony was singing the song “So Lonely” and having thousands of people sing it along with him.
Oh hell, I can’t keep a secret. I love this book. I absolutely love this book.
Here’s why: Even though the volume encompasses just about three years of his work, from the beginning of the blog in 2005 up through 2007, and it leaves out what has become my all-time favorite post (That’s strictly for personal reasons—I had an editor quote his post about leg-shaving and say that there was no way to accept any rationale for leg-shaving as legitimate, not after reading Fatty’s post. Only she missed his joke, which was kind of like missing the yellow on the school bus.) yet the collection doesn’t seem remotely incomplete. There’s an easier way to say what I just wrote: It’s a surprisingly complete overview of his work.
In three years of work he mined enough to flesh out a 312-page book. That, dear reader, is the mark of a real writer.
The obvious thing to do would have been to simply collect a bunch of old posts and reprint them. Crap, it’s what I’d have done. But then Fatty is no hack. He went back and revisited each post. It’s one thing to re-read your old work; it’s quite another to re-immerse yourself enough to comment on the work and your frame of mind when you wrote it. And that’s just what he did. He wrote introductions for each post, giving readers a little behind-the-scenes look on the composition and then, in a stroke only someone familiar with literature in the late 20th century would do, he proceeded to footnote the text.
I can say I laughed out loud at some of the same jokes I laughed at six years ago. They were often as funny as the first time I read them. But some of my biggest laughs came from the footnotes. Sure, some only gave me a knowing smile, but others held the kind of insider wink that only a close friend can give. It’s an intimacy every writer dreams of and very few achieve.
As much as love BSNYC, I need to say that I think Fatty’s gift for comedy is greater. Believe me, I’ve dissolved into hopeless giggles at things BSNYC has written, but the thing about Fatty is that his is almost always a victimless comedy. No one gets offended and everyone gets a laugh. It’s the ultimate festival seating of humor. He could charge a nickel a laugh and had he done so he would have earned far more than the $19.95 cover price on this book.
It’s not a perfect collection, though. He’s dead wrong about the They Might Be Giants song “Birdhouse in Your Soul.” Having had an earworm of Iron Butterfly’s “Ina Gadda da Vida”, I can tell you there are lower rungs on the ladder of torture. Someday at some race, I plan to ride up to him and hum a bar of that heavy metal classic, then whisper the words, “Don’t you know I’m lovin’ you?” in his ear.
There won’t be a trace of irony in my voice.
You can pick up your own copy of “Comedian Mastermind” here.
UPDATE: Apparently, I’m a fair bit sicker than I thought. I wrote a second review of Fatty’s book. Not that it needed a second one, but I don’t see any point in not sharing it: http://redkiteprayer.com/?p=7790. Strange things like this happen when I’m sick.
The Italian sees the future. Where everywhere people are saying, “My customers are asking for this. My customers are asking for that,” the Italian says, “Your customers don’t know what they need. They do not think of the future. They only read magazines and stare at the television.”
The future is in Urban riding, he says. He pronounces it “Ooor-ban,” and he doesn’t mean hipsters on fixies. He means a type of riding that includes your commute, your errands, picking the kids up from school, everything. Commuting, according to the Italian, is a bad word for cycling, because it implies only one use for the bike, to get from home to work.
Even Oorban doesn’t capture his meaning correctly, but it is closer, he thinks.
Cycling needs a new vocabulary, new words to express the benefits attendant thereto. “No other machine is so perfect,” he says. “Nothing else moves you from place to place, makes you healthier, eliminates pollution, connects you to the world.” The Italian uses only vegetable based lubricants. They are not the best lubricants, but when you use them correctly, they are good, and they do not destroy the environment.
The Italian doesn’t seem to care for Italians very much. “Terrible businessmen,” he says. In Italy, we only race. No one is riding Oorban. No one is touring. He rides the white roads of Tuscany, stops at a hotel, and gets greeted in English. “I am Italian,” he says. “Why are you here,” they reply. “Here we only have Americans and Germans.”
“Since Coppi and Bartali, we have only racing,” says the Italian. “They ruined everything.” Even riding with your friends is racing, in Italy. I ask him why they don’t win more races then, and he says, “Because they are terrible businessmen.” I laugh. He does not.
In the car, on the way to the bus, the Italian explains the entire European debt crisis to me, in detail, quoting the exact value of bond issue returns. The Spanish have been downgraded, he informs me. He then explains the difference between the quality and construction of various makers of merino wool cycling gear. Again, there are specific references to the percentage of wool and synthetics in each garment, the advantages of each. “Wool is the future,” he says, “as it was the past.”
The Italian is one of these people you meet in the bike business. There is a charisma and insanity to him. You don’t speak with the Italian. He speaks TO you. And you listen, because he sees the future.
In 2008, Radio Freddy arranged for the two of us to meet Brad Roe, then the editor of Hi-Torque’s Road Bike Action. While Radio Freddy was in town for the Tour of California, we met Brad and took a tour of the offices that had produced countless issues of magazines we did a better job of memorizing than the algebra texts found in our book bags during our school days.
From that one meeting a relationship with Brad and RBA grew. I’d admired the work those guys were doing and the chance to begin freelancing for them was a dream come true. I began freelancing for VeloNews once again, following a more than 10-year hiatus. And when Paved was launched, I was thrilled to hear from Joe Parkin requesting a contribution.
That I chose to launch Red Kite Prayer is an event I believe some BKW readers misunderstood. Comments in response to my post announcing RKP got snarky and suggested I was disloyal to Radio Freddy and I wasn’t showing proper appreciation for the “sponsorship” I received. Just what that sponsorship was, I’ll never know.
I really hadn’t wanted to turn my back on BKW and it wasn’t a slight to Radio Freddy. Facts were facts, though. His day job was busy and he didn’t have the time to put into a blog that I did. And it wasn’t really practical for me to assume the helm of a ship that wasn’t mine. He encouraged me to launch a new blog and even suggested he’d contribute to it, turning the tables in an unusual twist. For me, it came down to a matter of practicality: To make a living as a freelancer, I needed to make something off of all my work, whether it came from T-shirt sales, advertising or (preferably) both. RKP hasn’t made me rich, nor do I expect it to, but it’s added an important additional revenue stream (to use a technical term) to my business model. Ahem.
When Brad left RBA I was equal parts surprised and depressed. I loved working with him and feared that a terrific relationship was going to go down the drain. I knew we’d stay in touch, but I feared we’d never work together again. It’s not often you work with an editor who challenges you and then gives you enough leash to go do good work. Mere months later he decided he missed publishing and announced a new road bike magazine, peloton. When he called to ask me to be a part of the magazine and even offered me a column I didn’t need time to think before saying yes.
Unfortunately, once I began freelancing for peloton, my days at Road Bike Action were numbered, even though the writing I did for the two couldn’t have been more different. I’d never have written the analysis pieces or columns that have appeared in peloton for Road Bike Action. Conversely, the overview features that I typically did for RBA would never suffice for peloton. I really enjoyed the diversity. However, Hi-Torque hasn’t taken kindly to having an ex-employee (Brad) start a new magazine. Getting caught in the middle was zero fun, but then no one ever enjoys being collateral damage. For a period of time I put the Swiss Cross up as my profile pic on Facebook. That didn’t seem to phase anyone, so when RBA’s ad sales director pulled me aside at Interbike and told me, “You can’t freelance for four magazines,” I responded, “I’m not; I’m freelancing for three.” I added, “Look, I’m a freelancer, which means I’m a hooker. If you want me to spend the night, marry me.”
I admit, I was impressed when they offered me a full-time position. They offered to create a special status for me, so that while they didn’t want to see most of their editors more than four or five times in a month, they expressed a strong desire to have me in the office all five days a week. I’d have the opportunity to brainstorm ideas on the hour-and-a-half drive each way to and from work and I’d be liberated of the need to care for my year-old son on a daily basis. Though the allure of the position was strong—especially because their urgency was so great they never put an offer in writing—I realized that as a lowly blogger publishing a new piece five days a week probably hadn’t prepared me for the rigor of their publication schedule. I decided the best thing I could do was allow them to hire someone more qualified.
It used to be that in working as staff for a magazine you exchanged the freedom to freelance for a steady paycheck. It was a Faustian trade, I tell you. Today, though, we have a much better arrangement, thanks to 1099s. The good news in this is writers like me who are unencumbered by the strictures of employment used to face a dizzying array of possible homes for our freelance work. It was utterly confusing to get up each morning and wonder who I should pitch for which story. That needless task has been solved for me, though. The more my name has become associated with peloton, the less other magazines have been willing to work with me. I’m pretty introverted, so having the phone ring less with offers of work has lifted a tremendous burden from me.
Of course, I still query other magazines from time to time, but I really do it just to keep appearances up. I really don’t want my name getting around too much; that might get confusing for readers.
Though my involvement with peloton has been strictly freelance, the assignments I’ve tackled have been some of the most challenging and rewarding of my entire career. The chance to have my analysis of greats like Eddy Merckx, Fausto Coppi and Claudio Chiappucci appear alongside never-before-seen photos from some of the finest photographers in the biz puts a smile on my face while helping to pay the rent. Life is good.
So what’s the point of this story? First, it’s to say thanks (again) to Radio Freddy for giving me a chance to reinvent myself as a writer. That I’ve carved out a niche for myself as an author in the bike industry is both incredibly rare and something that came about as a direct result of my involvement in BKW. What has also been truly gratifying are the people who have come forward to tell me how much they enjoyed BKW and even some instances where other writers have noted how it influenced their desire to write or what to write about. That there are other blogs out there that owe some of their inspiration to BKW is something I’d never have guessed would happen.
But I’m not the only person who re-entered the bike biz due to BKW. Radio Freddy is back among us. I guess this sport is a bit like some viruses—once in your system it’s there for good. His re-entry has created an opportunity for us to collaborate again, though our involvement will be found at another web address.
To find out his real identity and see what he’s up to, pick up Issue 10 of peloton.
Image: Brad Roe
The mentor and his apprentice
This past week has been a memorable one for British cyclists. In the space of eight days, they took seven international victories: two in Qatar, two in Spain and three in France. It was the best-ever start to a new racing season by riders from the UK. The two sprint wins by world champ Mark Cavendish at the Tour of Qatar were not totally unexpected; and sprinter Andy Fenn’s two stage wins at the Mallorca Challenge simply confirmed the great talent of Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s neo-pro. But the two solo stage wins and overall victory by Endura Racing’s Jonathan Tiernan-Locke at the Tour Méditerranéen shocked everyone.
Well, not quite everyone. Locke’s mentor and onetime coach back in England, Colin Lewis, was calmly awaiting his apprentice to make this big breakthrough. Lewis, 69, who owns the bike shop in southwest England where Locke worked for several years, is one of the savviest and most knowledgeable people in the sport. He’s also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, with a dry sense of humor and a ready smile.
I first met Lewis on a long training ride over the hills of Brittany in the mid-1960s, when we were both racing with amateur teams and trying to make it to the big leagues. He was already a star in my eyes, having placed seventh overall in his first two-week-long stage race, the Tour of Britain Milk Race, and 25th in the Olympic road race in Tokyo. I was just starting out and had only won a few local races in southeast England before heading to France.
We had a long conversation on that training ride, much of it about the drug culture in French cycling. This was before there were drug tests in the sport, so there was no danger of being caught by anti-doping agencies. The only danger was to your body. Lewis said he was totally against any form of doping and would never race for a European pro team.
The English-born Welshman was good to his word. When he turned pro in 1967, he signed for a British domestic team with a salary only a quarter of what he could have earned in Europe. Even so, he won his national pro road title that first year and was selected to ride the Tour de France for the British national team (the Tour didn’t switch to the current format of trade teams until 1969). Despite having had no experience of European pro racing, and definitely not using drugs, Lewis rode strongly for the three weeks to finish 84th overall. He started the Tour again in 1968, but was eliminated on an early stage to Roubaix.Colin Lewis in 1969
In his eight years as a pro, Lewis was consistently one of Britain’s top-tier riders, winning 38 times, but he rarely raced in Europe. Today, when there are several British teams in the big leagues, and there’s a very different attitude to doping, Lewis would likely be one of the very best in the world. He was a rider who could have won classics and stages of the Tour. And that’s just what he’s hoping for Locke.
On retiring from pro racing in 1975, Lewis became a coach and opened his bike shop in the seaside town of Paignton. He continued to compete in masters-level racing, while coaching younger riders who joined his Mid Devon Cycling Club. Among those who went on to become pros were Jeremy Hunt (now with Team Sky in his 15th pro season) and Yanto Barker (racing with Magnus Bäckstedt’s Team UK Youth).
When Locke began road racing in 2003 at age 18, after a couple of seasons as a mountain biker, he moved from fourth to first category status in just a few months. Seeing the teenager’s talent, Lewis found him a spot on the French amateur team, U.V. Aube, in 2004. Locke did so well there that, only 18 months into his road career, he was selected for the British under-23 team for that year’s road worlds in Verona, Italy. In 2005, he moved to a nationally ranked French team, CC Étupes, and established his credentials immediately by finishing on the podium in all of his first 10 races, including a win at the GP de Rocheville, near Cannes, on the Côte d’Azur.
A couple of months later, his health suddenly deteriorated. Locke returned home and was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus. He quit cycling, and for the next three years attended the University of Bristol, graduating with a degree in product design, while working at Lewis’s bike store each summer. Finally, after graduating in mid-2007 and feeling less fatigued than he had been, Locke began training again — riding the 30km each way from his Plymouth home to the bike shop. He returned to amateur racing four years ago, at age 23, and soon started winning again.
That 2008 season ended early when he was knocked unconscious by a panicked horse during a training ride; but he’d done enough to earn a place with a small British pro team for 2009. His new team’s main sponsor went bankrupt mid-season, so he returned to working at the bike shop while racing for no pay. That’s when John Herety, the former British national coach and now manager of the well-funded Rapha-Condor-Sharp pro team, remembered Locke’s talent from the 2004 worlds and asked him to join his squad in 2010.Lewis on the Col Portillon at the ’67 Tour de France
With Rapha, Locke’s pro career finally started to move. In 2010, he won the toughest stage of Ireland’s Rás Tailteann, taking fifth overall; and last year, with a more international schedule, he placed eighth at the Tour of South Africa, fourth in the Tour of Korea, second in Spain’s Vuelta a León, and then fifth in the Tour of Britain. His highlight at his national tour last September was securing the King of the Mountains title, mainly thanks to instigating and leading a long breakaway on the fifth stage, over the hills of Dartmoor National Park on the roads where he trains.
Like his mentor Lewis, Locke prepares for racing the old-fashioned way. “I don’t train with any power meters or a heart-rate monitor,” he told local cycling photographer Simon Keitch last year. “I’m quite old school in my training. I’m quite good at knowing how to get myself into shape.”
His aggressive riding at the Tour of Britain had ProTeam managers talking, but when Herety transformed the Rapha team into a development squad this past winter, Locke chose to join Endura Racing, another UK-based UCI Continental team, which has a strong schedule of international and domestic racing. He promised to “hit the ground running.” And Locke has done just that. Following a training camp in Mallorca, he headed to the Med Tour last week, planning to use his climbing strength up to the last day’s traditional summit finish on Mont Faron.
That plan was derailed by snow in the south of France, which forced the organizers to reroute three of the four stages, including the first and last ones. This didn’t stop Locke’s plans. His team scouted the finish of the opening stage and thought a short climb 3km from the line could be a good place to attack. Locke did just that, riding a dozen riders off his wheel and gaining enough time to hold off the sprinters to win the stage.
The Europeans said it was a lucky win, but the lean Brit emphasized his true class on Sunday. When overnight snow covered the Faron, Locke adjusted his sights on the lower-elevation summit finish up the Col du Corps de Garde. And he didn’t wait for the final kick to the line; instead, he surprised the Continentals by jumping clear with 10km to go, catching and passing the day’s lone breakaway on the first steep slopes of the final climb, before establishing a 40-second lead. Locke held on to win the stage by 17 seconds over Saxo Bank’s Spanish climber Dani Navarro and Acqua & Sapone’s Italian star Stefano Garzelli — and clinched the overall title.
When asked by a British website last year what he hoped to achieve in 2012, Locke replied, “I’d love to win a UCI stage race … with the prospect of moving on to a ProTour team in the future.” Well, goal one is already achieved, and if he continues to show his strength for Endura Racing, Locke could well join a UCI ProTeam in 2013.
At just under 5-foot-9 and 139 pounds, Locke, 27, has a similar lean build to his cycling hero Michele Bartoli, the Italian who won the Mont Faron stage of the Med Tour at age 27 (in 1997) and took the overall title the following year. Bartoli won multiple classics, including Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour of Lombardy — just the type of races that Locke relishes.
And now that his career-interrupted has finally moved into top gear, it won’t be long before Locke gets a chance to emulate Bartoli in the hilly classics. When he does, the apprentice knows that back in a British bike shop, his mentor will still be rooting for him.
Follow me on Twitter: @johnwilcockson
When Belgium Knee Warmers‘ Radio Freddy got in touch with me in the fall of ’06 his call and its contents were unexpected. “I’m starting a blog,” he said. “I’d like you to contribute.”
He wanted it to address his passions and to be a positive response to the sport. At the time, I couldn’t picture what he had in mind. The limitation was mine. Back then, cycling blogs mostly went something like this, “Yeah bro, we were like doing 25 in the Cat IV race and I was all like raaaar, and Dudenut was all gnarthrashed cuz he put his front wheel into a ref when he gave a victory salute in the second group. We spent all afternoon at the ER waiting for him. Sunday night we drank PBR and watched porn.”
Yawn. My conception of blogging was that it was so personal as to be codified and—worse—without insight. The lack of universality in experience made cycling blogs pointless, at least to me. It would be a few more months before I’d run across BSNYC and Fat Cyclist.
This wasn’t the first time Radio Freddy and I had considered a collaboration. I had attempted to recruit him to do advertising sales for my magazine Asphalt. While he was interested, his availability was modest.
Any opportunity for us to work together seemed doomed when Asphalt went under. Asphalt had been my dream, my life’s work and when my partner exited the operation she forced the magazine into a sort of bankruptcy. I’ll leave it at that as the ugliness of what transpired between us should remain private; I’ve nothing positive to say about the end of the magazine.
What I can tell you is that I was more than depressed. I wrote the post Thanksgiving II in reference to that chapter of my life. And whether the rest of the bike industry felt it or not, I believed I was persona non grata because I was the captain of the ship when it sank.
I hadn’t considered writing about cycling or how I might pursue it since Asphalt. It simply didn’t seem possible that I’d enjoy another opportunity to write about cycling. Even so, when Radio Freddy got in touch, I wasn’t sure that I had anything to say.
Let’s back up a sec. I began writing about cycling in 1991. I was interested to write about a sport in which I’d developed a consuming passion. And while I had this passion to write, I really didn’t have anything to say. Newbie writers frequently ask me where I get my ideas for the pieces I write. I’m more than familiar with their plight. The strange part is that I have no idea how to answer. Back then, I was casting about, looking for opportunities—subjects—to write. I had no idea how to share my passion. Despite this, I managed to get some bylines with Dirt Rag, The Ride and even VeloNews. Most of my stuff was pretty straight journalism.
I parlayed those limited credits into a gig with the magazine Bicycle Guide and moved to California, more specifically, Los Angeles, which my friend and former UMASS Cycling Team teammate, Bicycling contributing editor (and former Bicycle Guide contributing editor) Alan Coté pointed out was “the on-ramp to the apocalypse.” He stole that from a sit-com, but that didn’t make it less accurate. That I was willing to move there was a measure of my determination.
At Bicycle Guide I was assigned a broad range of stories. Bike reviews, newbie tip articles, first-person narratives, it was the perfect incubator for an ambitious writer. Despite the fact that I had already earned a Master’s in English, I consider that period another chapter in my education.
I love writing bike reviews and speaking with the different builders; they were stories that were far more interesting to write than race reports and rewarded creativity and determination. However, my greatest growth, what most inspired my ambition, were columns and those first-person narratives. Getting away from the office and putting myself in a landscape with a bike and writing about that adventure of the senses and the richness of the experience for both the exterior and interior was really everything I could have asked for as a writer. For me, it was heaven on earth. I realized that I had something to say.
When Bicycle Guide was shut down, it took only a couple of days for me to conceive of Asphalt, a magazine where presentation would match the quality of the experiences and equipment we presented. We had our hitches; there were color problems in the first issue and we ran almost as slow as another quarterly currently on the market, but readers and advertisers were signing up. When that went down the pipes, I figured my future in cycling had gone with it.
Ultimately, what drew me back in shouldn’t surprise me or anyone who’s ever read my work. It was a story. Specialized had inked a sponsorship deal with Quick Step and after only a few races on the Tarmac SL, Tom Boonen began appearing on a custom-made aluminum frame. Sure it was custom, but it wasn’t the flagship ride Specialized was featuring in all its ads. It was a PR black eye that had erupted on the Internet into a torrent of obscenity-laced insults aimed at the company for demeaning the finest Classics rider of the day with an aluminum ride.
I’d spent enough time writing about bike companies to know that there was more to the story at Specialized.
So I called them.
I began talking with PR beacon Nic Sims and told him straight up they were being murdered on blogs and forums and none of the magazines were helping them by setting the story straight. I admitted that BKW was a small blog, but maybe if we got the story right, others might pick it up.
Naturally, he talked to me. He told me that the aluminum bike was simply a tester, that they wanted to make sure they got Boonen’s fit exactly right before cutting a mold for him. That whole measure twice, cut once thing.
The post was fun enough that I did a follow-up and came up with a few others for Radio Freddy. The readership went from tiny to small to noticeable—i.e. more than a 1000 unique viewers per day—in a matter of months.
I’d chosen a nom de plume to publish under for a simple reason; I was afraid that my name could be a liability. Suddenly, I began to see the alias in a new light. It was a chance to see if we could build a following just on the quality of the work. Rather than try to trade on our bike industry experience, our knowledge of cycling would either inform our writing and appeal to readers, or it wouldn’t. There’d be no baggage of history.
In the summer of 2007 I was getting ready for the Markleeville Death Ride and had adopted a super-model diet in my quest to get back to my old race weight. One day I was thinking about how hungry I was and about how eloquent Lance Armstrong had been on the subject of weight loss. I recall him saying something to the effect of, ‘It’s simply a matter of suffering.’
I dashed off a post called “The Lance Feeling” in less than a half hour. That one post marked a turning point for me. It helped me conceive of blogging as a chance to write an editor’s column over and over and over. Without the constriction of a monthly, bi-monthly or even quarterly publication schedule or the need to address issue themes, I could muse on any subject that itched my fancy. And I could do it whenever the urge struck.
Ohmigod, this blogging thing has possibilities.
What unfolded on BKW over the next year is one of those occurrences in publishing that comes along maybe once or twice in a career.
Radio Freddy and I shared a common background in bicycle retailing. We’d spent serious time in the trenches. Additionally, we’d both turned wrenches for riders whose bikes had to work right. Him at a prominent Chicago pro shop and me, for a spell, for the US National Team’s juniors. Our time in shops had also taught us a love for routine and working in a consistent fashion. We both had a love of working efficiently, of knowing the über tricks and watching for the moves of the elders. We were fundamentally students of the sport.
Radio Freddy’s posts conveyed hard-won wisdom of the ages, techniques that were less tips than meditations on quality. An interplay began in our posts. While we could discuss the fact that it was happening when we spoke on the phone, neither of us had the ability to explain how it was happening. It’s hard, even now, to look back and put my finger on why one post of his sparked me to write a particular one of mine, but there was a kind of gestalt relationship.
The way the readership grew during this time was all the confirmation we needed that the chemistry was palpable. It was rare that I’d ever have chosen a subject that Radio Freddy selected, but his choices influenced mine and vice versa.
The way our ideas dovetailed could fire me up like few things ever have. One night, as my girlfriend (now wife) was watching TV, I wrote three different posts. They all ran.
It was around this time that I landed a gig to write a guidebook on Los Angeles. I was reinventing myself. Next came an op-ed I wrote for the LA Times that suggested the UCI should enact and truth and reconciliation commission to get to the bottom of cycling’s doping woes. I’ve heard many people take credit for the idea, but I can tell you my piece was the first into print and was read by some two million people. A friend gave the piece to the powers-that-be at the UCI. I hear there’s a price on my head. It’s not much, but you might be able to take your sweetie to dinner on it.
I’d never have written that piece had I not been composing analysis pieces about Floyd Landis’ CAS appeal. Say what you want about the particular breed of crazy Landis keeps in his pocket, his defense team did their work brilliantly and the outcome of that case was a travesty.
Where were we?
The LA Times piece led to offers for copywriting work for several industry companies, among them Felt.
I was back in.
We usually have to wait a few weeks to see the sport’s biggest stars take their first scalps of the season—but not this year. Andre Greipel (Tour Down Under), Alejandro Valverde (Tour Down Under), Oscar Freire (Tour Down Under), Levi Leipheimer (Tour de San Luis), and Alberto Contador (Tour de San Luis, later DQ’ed) have all opened their 2012 accounts—and in some cases, more than once. Even the reigning world champion has enjoyed some success, as Team Sky’s Mark Cavendish took his first two wins of the season in Qatar this week.
But the by far the season’s biggest success story—so far, at least—has been Omega Pharma-Lotto’s Tom Boonen. Boonen’s already won four races in 2012 including two stages and the overall at the Tour of Qatar. Boonen’s also proven to be a dedicated teammate; he helped Francesco Chicchi win two early stages in Argentina before taking the final stage himself.
More than anyone else this season, I’m expecting (and hoping for) big things from Boonen. One of the sport’s most exciting cobbled hardmen, Tommeke already has three wins in Paris-Roubaix and two in the Tour de Flanders. But Boonen’s current streak leads me to believe he’ll be the big favorite when the Belgian season opens two weeks from tomorrow at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad—one of the few cobbled races Boonen has yet to add to his resume. As long as it doesn’t hurt his chances to win another Monument, I’ll be rooting for him there.
Which leads me today’s question: who’s the one rider you’re hoping will find the most success in 2012 and why?
Follow me on Twitter: @whityost
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
So far we’ve covered Men of the Hour and Up-and-Comers as part of our 2012 Season Preview; now it’s time for a list of the riders and teams who find themselves “on the hot seat” heading into the 2012 season.
Andy Schleck—It’s rarely a good thing when you’re being compared to Joop Zoetemelk. But that’s just the awkward place in which Radio Shack-Nissan’s Andy Schleck finds himself heading into the 2012 season. Schleck has now finished as runner-up at the Tour de France four times*. The good news: Contador’s not racing and Schleck will find himself leading a stronger squad with nine-time Tour de France winning DS Johan Bruyneel driving the team car. The bad news: he’s running out of excuses. And with a 2012 Tour route that emphasizes time trialing over climbing, Schleck could soon find himself one race away from equaling Zoetemelk’s record of six second-place finishes. Then again, even Joop won the race once.
(*Andy’s not counting 2010 as a victory, and neither am I.)
Janez Brajkovic—Two seasons ago Slovenia’s Janez Brajkovic won the Criterium du Dauphiné for Team RadioShack with an impressive mix of climbing and time trialing; at the time he looked to be Johan Bruyneel’s next grand tour champion. But cycling’s a cruel sport and a year later Brajkovic found himself lying on the side of the road during Stage 5 of the 2011 Tour de France; his injuries sent him home less than a week into the Tour. The 28-year-old now rides for Astana, a squad that will welcome another GC contender to ride alongside Roman Kreuziger. Assuming Kreuziger targets the 2012 Giro d’Italia (a race in which he finished sixth last year), Brajkovic might find little stands between him and another chance at Tour leadership.
BMC—Earlier I included BMC on my list of Men of the Hour—and they deserve the distinction. But they also find themselves on the Hot Seat—here’s why:
- Philippe Gilbert, Cadel Evans, and Thor Hushovd will draw intense scrutiny after their 2011 exploits. The only feat more impressive than Gilbert’s 2011 season would be repeating the feat in 2012. As for Evans, he’ll soon find that winning a Tour is one thing, while defending the title is an entirely different proposition (just ask Carlos Sastre and history’s other 1-time winners). And Thor? Well, he did a quite bit of talking in 2011 about how unhappy he was at Garmin-Cervelo. Now he gets to show us what he can do while riding for a team where he feels his “leadership” is safe and secure.
- America’s great young hopes—Taylor Phinney and Tejay Van Garderen—need to show some progression in 2012. Phinney needs to turn his lessons from 2011 into results in 2012 while Van Garderen needs to win a week-long stage race—Paris-Nice would be a fantastic start.
- Aging and former stars such as George Hincapie and Alessandro Ballan will fight to stay relevant just within their own squad. I’m still holding out hope that Thor’s arrival will give Hincapie the leash he needs to win Roubaix. As for Ballan, his continued presence on the roster surprises me considering his lack of results and the continued investigation of his role in the Mantova doping case.
- Last, but not least: chemistry. It takes a lot to manage the egos and aspirations of a professional cycling team, let alone a squad with so many high-profile stars. Evans, Gilbert, and Hushovd have all had moments where they appeared unable to play well with others—or at least unable to do so while keeping their mouths shut about it. Jim Ochowicz and the rest of BMC’s management will need to anticipate flare-ups before they happen and work quickly to extinguish problems before they spread.
Mark Cavendish—British rider, British team, World Champion, London Olympics—assuming he makes it through the Tour unscathed, Team Sky’s Mark Cavendish will likely face more Olympic pressure than any rider has ever known. With two stage wins in Qatar, at least he’s off to a good start.
Riders with Names Ending in “-ov”—In particular, I’m thinking of Alexandre Vinokourov, Alexandr Kolobnev, and Denis Menchov. As for Vino, he’s trying to end his career with some measure of respect at Astana, while putting behind him the “allegations” that he bought the 2010 Liege-Bastogne-Liege from Alexandr Kolobnev (who’s been provisionally suspended for testing positive for masking agents at the 2011 Tour de France). Denis Menchov made a major career mistake when he transferred from Rabobank to Geox-TMC after a 2010 season that saw him finish third in the Tour de France. Unfortuantely, the supposed skeletons in the closets of Geox’s management meant there would be no Tour de France for the Spanish squad, so Menchov found himself sitting at home in July; he finished 8th in the Giro and 5tht in the Vuelta, but failed to make a major impact in either race. This year he finds himself riding for Katusha and should get another crack at leading a team the Tour. Believe it or not, the parcours suits him quite well, and another podium shot is certainly well within his reach.
Italy—Italians won 102 races in 2011, but few of any import. Worse still, the country’s grand tour riders came up empty after winning the Giro and the Vuelta in 2010. So it should come as no surprise that changes are in store for 2012. First, Liquigas rider Ivan Basso seems to have given-up on his Tour de France dreams; the 34-year-old has instead set his sights on winning his third Giro d’Italia. As for Vincenzo Nibali, the Tour de France was supposed to be his big goal for 2012; he finished 7tht in 2009 and has learned how to win and lose a grand tour in the two seasons since his breakthrough. That said, Nibali hasn’t ruled-out the Giro d’Italia either, an interesting proposition considering his toughest rival might also be his teammate.
In the classics, another poor season for Filippo Pozzato lost him his World Tour ride; he now leads Farnese-Vini, a team whose prospects—and race invitations—seemed to be improving until the charismatic,but frustrating, Italian “star” broke his collarbone. More weeks of training down the drain. Damiano Cunego still seems years away from his former race-winning self and Alessandro Ballan? Well, your guess is as good as mine.
But of all the Italians feeling pressure to perform in 2012, national team coach Paolo Bettini is likely to be feeling it the most. He’ll have two chances to redeem himself in 2012: the Olympics and Worlds. If he can’t do it, look for a change at the helm of the federation’s national squad.
Thomas Voeckler—Europcar’s Thomas Voeckler will be hard-pressed to re-create his Tour de France heroics from 2011. Let’s hope he doesn’t really take his Tour prospects seriously enough to sacrifice his chances in other races, as he’s one of the sport’s most exciting stars.
Monument Race Organizations—Changing the route or the date of a Monument is never a popular decision, but in 2012 we’ll see significant alterations to two of the sport’s oldest and most prestigious races. First off, the organizers of April’s Tour of Flanders have decided that the traditional Muur/Bosberg finale is too…predictable? Easy? Boring? To be honest, I’m not really sure what they were thinking, but if this year’s “new and improved” set of finishing circuits doesn’t lead to a spectacular win for either Philippe Gilbert or Tom Boonen, there will be hell to pay in Oudenaarde.
As for Italy’s “Race of the Falling Leaves”, il Lombardia (a name I’m still getting used to saying), a move to September means the leaves won’t be falling anymore. The UCI is hoping that an earlier date will see more in-form riders contest the late-season event, even if the scenery proves to be a less spectacular. The switch has a better chance of producing a more exciting race than the changes to Flanders do, but the sport’s purists are still shaking their heads.
Campagnolo—With more and more teams choosing Shimano or SRAM for their components, Campagnolo has to be feeling some pressure to remain relevant. Of the 18 teams in this year’s World Tour, only three (Lotto-Belisol, Lampre-ISD, and Movistar) will be riding the Italian groupsets in 2012 (Team Europcar, one of the sport’s better Professional Continental squads, will be racing Campy as well). The company’s new EPS electronic group was beginning to generate a bit of buzz—and then SRAM introduced its new Red grouppo and stole most of the spotlight. Campy’s still relying on decades of cachet to drive sales, but one has to wonder if they can keep up.
Team NetApp—They won one race last year—the time trial at the 2.2 Tour Gallipoli. They barely made a ripple at last year’s Amgen Tour of California—one of the biggest events on their calendar. Now they’re riding the Giro d’Italia? If the Giro had a Super PAC, Net App would have just made a significant donation.
Bjarne Riis—Even with a suspension and the loss of two grand tour titles, Alberto Contador will be just fine. As for Bjarne Riis and Team Saxo Bank-Sunguard? Well, that’s another issue entirely. It seems that Riis is almost always struggling to find new sponsors to help his team survive from one season to the next; now he faces six months without his Spanish star and the possible loss of his team’s World Team license. There were rumors circulating that Stefano Garzelli might sign with Saxo Bank after his Acqua & Sapone squad was not invited to the Giro d’Italia. Given Garzelli’s track record at the Italian grand tour, that might not be a bad option for the Danish general manager.
Who’s on your Hot Seat? Share your comments below.
Follow me on Twitter: @WhitYost
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
The International Court of Arbitration for Sport has ruled largely in favor of a UCI appeal, finding former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich guilty of doping offenses related to the 2006 Operación Puerto investigation and annulling all of his results back to May of 2005.
The three-member CAS panel issued a two-year suspension of the now-retired rider, banning him from the sport until August 22, 2013. The decision represents a minor victory for Ullrich in that the panel rejected a UCI request that the 38-year-old rider be banned from the sport for life.
The panel found, however, that there was sufficient evidence that Ullrich had enlisted the medical services of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, the Madrid-area gynecologist whose offices were raided as part of the Puerto investigation in May of 2006. It was in those raids that investigators from the Spanish Guardia Civil seized performance-enhancing drugs and more than 100 blood bags, many of which were subsequently linked to high profile riders.
Ullrich was among several riders named in the investigation and was suspended, along with teammate Óscar Sevilla, by the T-Mobile team on the eve of the 2006 Tour de France. Ivan Basso (CSC), Francisco Mancebo (AG2R) and five members of the Astana-Würth (formerly Liberty Seguros-Würth) team, including Alberto Contador, were also excluded from that year’s Tour. Contador was among several riders subsequently cleared of charges in the case, Basso later served a suspension and returned to the sport, but Ullrich’s career was effectively derailed by the allegations.
Jurisdictional and procedural questions
Based on a report from the Guardia Civil, the UCI had requested that the Swiss Cycling Federation initiate disciplinary action against Ullrich in 2006. It wasn’t until 2009 that the Swiss Olympic Committee ruled that Antidoping Schweiz lacked authority to discipline the German rider, whose Swiss license had expired in October of 2006.
That triggered a 2010 appeal from the UCI, which sought to annul all of Ullrich’s results back to 2002 and to impose a life-time ban. Ullrich’s legal team challenged the UCI’s authority to discipline the rider since he had already retired and was no longer subject to the Swiss governing body’s authority.
Furthermore, Ullrich claimed that he couldn’t be subject to the actions of the disciplinary panel since Antidoping Schweiz wasn’t even in existence when his license lapsed, meaning that he had never formally agreed to be subject to its jurisdiction.
Ullrich’s attorneys raised a number of other procedural claims in the rider’s defense, but also argued that if those were rejected that any disciplinary actions be referred back to the Swiss federation, rather than being imposed by CAS.
The CAS panel rejected the bulk of Ullrich’s arguments, noted that the UCI retained authority over Ullrich and concluded that any resulting sanction could be imposed by the appeals panel itself.
Probative value of evidence and no factual defense
The panel then found that DNA evidence showed that Fuentes was in possession of Ullrich’s blood and that there was no medical justification for the storage of the rider’s blood other than for purposes of performance-enhancement.
“The report, prepared by Dr. Dirk Porstendörfer, concluded that the samples provided by Ullrich matched the genetic materials provided by the Spanish Civil Guard with an extremely high degree of probability (one in six billion),” the panel noted.
The panel noted that Ullrich’s own financial records showed that Ullrich had paid Fuentes in excess of 80,000 euros for medical services.
“Ullrich’s bank statements … show a payment to Dr. Fuentes in 2004 in the amount of €25,003.20,” the panel reported, “and a second payment in 2006 to a numbered Swiss HSBC bank account in the amount of €55,000 which HSBC has confirmed was also associated with Dr. Fuentes during that time period.”
Spanish investigators had also provided the UCI with evidence that Ullrich had made frequent trips to Fuentes’ offices in the years before the 2006 Puerto raids.
“The UCI has offered into evidence documents obtained from the Spanish Civil Guard, which the Spanish Civil Guard seized or otherwise obtained as part of its Operation Puerto investigation or from other sources,” the CAS panel wrote. “These documents include: (1) Documents evidencing travel by Ullrich to Madrid for reasons that are not known to be related to cycling events. (2) Calendars seized from Dr. Fuentes that use a code to record the withdrawal of blood from athletes on specified dates, and inventories of fridges and freezers containing blood bearing the date of extraction – since the blood samples can be associated to particular individuals, read together the inventory and the calendar are a guide to the dates when Ullrich is alleged to have provided blood to Dr. Fuentes for storage.”
In concluding its evidentiary analysis, the CAS panel expressed “surprise” that Ullrich’s entire legal strategy was based on procedural and jurisdictional challenges and included no direct challenge of any the evidence presented.
“Ullrich’s silence in this respect is both notable and surprising, given the vigour with which he has otherwise contested the UCI’s allegations,” the decision noted. “Despite the Panel’s surprise in this respect, it is of no consequence to its ultimate decision; the UCI rules do not contain a provision that would permit a negative inference to be drawn from efforts to avoid addressing the substance of an allegation of an antidoping rule violation.”
While no negative inference could be directly drawn by the absence of a defense on Ullrich’s part, the panel did note that there was compelling evidence to conclude that there was a doping violation and nothing had been presented to impeach that evidence.
“Given the volume, consistency and probative value of the evidence presented by the UCI, and the failure of Jan Ullrich to raise any doubt about the veracity or reliability of such evidence, this Panel came to the conclusion that Jan Ullrich engaged at least in blood doping in violation of Article 15.2 of the UCI Anti-doping Rules.”
No life-time ban
The CAS panel, however, rejected a UCI call to impose a life-time ban and to annul Ullrich’s results all the way back to 2002. The UCI based its request on the fact that the Puerto case constituted Ullrich’s second doping violation and that UCI and WADA rules called for the imposition of a life-time suspension. Ullrich was found to have used amphetamines (reportedly the drug ecstasy) while partying with friends in 2002.
The CAS panel noted that amphetamines had since been reclassified as being banned only if found in an in-competition test.
The panel concluded that the 2002 violation would no longer qualify has a doping offense and, therefore, did not warrant the imposition of a life-time ban.
“In short, were Ullrich to be found to have ingested amphetamines out of competition today,” the panel reasoned, “he would not have committed an anti-doping violation.”
Ullrich’s suspension expires in 2013, when the man who became Germany’s first-ever Tour de France winner in 1997 will be 40 years old. It’s doubtful that Ullrich ever had plans to return to competition, since he formally announced his retirement in February of 2007. A suspension, however, also includes a ban on his participation in the sport in any other capacity, including coach, manager or sponsor.
Wednesday’s ruling also strips Ullrich of results dating back to May of 2005 after the panel concluded that the evidence presented “established that Jan Ullrich was fully engaged with Dr. Fuentes’ doping programe at least from that date.” Most significantly, that would negate Ullrich’s third-place finish in the 2005 Tour de France and his overall win at the 2006 Tour de Suisse.
The court also ordered Ullrich to pay 10,000 Swiss francs (8300 euros) to defray a portion of the legal costs of the case.